Embattled prof. House reinstated, Desir to continue fight

by Beacon Staff • April 29, 2009

College President Jacqueline Liebergott announced today the reinstatement of Professor Roger House, who brought a complaint against Emerson with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination last year after he and another black professor, Pierre Desir, alleged they were denied tenure because of their race.

House, an assistant professor of history in the journalism department, will return to teaching this fall without tenure and will be up for the promotion again in 2011 after he and the college agreed to compromise, Liebergott said in an e-mail sent to faculty and staff this morning.

The deal of returning to Emerson without tenure was presented to both he and Desir on the condition they drop their MCAD cases, Desir said in a telephone interview. However, they agreed to negotiate separately and Desir will not be reinstated.

Desir said he wanted the deal to include immediate promotion and tenure while House was willing to reapply in two years. Desir's suit remains under the Commission's investigation. House could not be reached for comment today and it is unknown whether he agreed to drop his case.

"I deserve tenure now. I deserved it when I applied for it," Desir said. "I'm not disappointed at all. Roger did what he felt was right and I agree it was for him. This was a strategy [by the college] as well but I don't think it takes the wind out of my case. I was not willing to drop my case for anything less than giving me tenure."

Liebergott declined to comment further in an e-mail to The Beacon today.

"As far as Roger is concerned I have said all there is to say," Liebergott wrote. "The College is satisfied with the outcome and we are looking forward to the future."

House and film professor Desir were the only two black professors up for tenure in 2008 out of five candidates and were the only two denied. They both filed complaints against the college alleging their denial was based on their race.

At the end of last school year, the Faculty Assembly voted to convene an outside evaluators panel to investigate the college's tenure and promotion practices in regards to diversity.

The college then elected to follow the assembly's recommendation by creating the three-member panel, which was announced to faculty and staff in August. The outside evaluators are expected to return their findings in January 2010.

Emerson currently has three tenured black professors out of more than 68 tenured faculty members, according to the Office of Academic Affairs. Two of those three professors filed lawsuits, the first in the 1970s and the second in the 1990s, to receive their tenure.

In its 129-year history the college has never promoted a tenured black male faculty member, though tenure is usually accompanied by a promotion from assistant to associate professor.